Govt ‘manipulated’ budget numbers to fool masses, PML-N's Abbasi says

Published June 13, 2021
"This is an 'ATM budget' that benefits those who plunder national wealth," says Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — DawnNews
"This is an 'ATM budget' that benefits those who plunder national wealth," says Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — DawnNews

Senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Sunday fired a broadside at the government for its "impracticable financial goals", saying the decision-makers in Islamabad “manipulated” numbers in the budget for FY2021-22 to fool the masses.

Speaking at a press conference alongside other party leaders, former prime minister Abbasi said new taxes worth Rs383 billion had been imposed in the new budget. “Of them, indirect taxes amount to Rs265bn, which clearly indicates the poor will have to bear them,” he said.

He added that the claims of income generation made by the government were not backed by a concrete source to achieve that target.

“In its last three years, the government couldn’t even increase its net income by 20 per cent and now they claim they will boost the same by 24pc in the new fiscal year,” said Abbasi.

He said the budget figures revealed that the government would obtain Rs252bn through privatisation. “But we cannot generate income by selling assets,” he added.

'ATM budget'

The former premier termed it an "ATM budget", saying it benefitted those who plundered national wealth and created shortages of sugar. "This is also a budget for the friends,” he alleged.

The PML-N leader questioned how the provinces would share revenue by curtailing their development, saying the provincial surplus was Rs240bn previously and now it was Rs570bn.

He noted that liquefied natural gas (LNG) was one key area for revenue generation and the government had imposed a 17pc sales tax on it. He said the tax collection target could not be achieved without increasing petrol and diesel prices by at least Rs30.

Abbasi further called upon the finance minister to publicise the comparison of export figures in 2018 and now.

He said Pakistan had reached 6pc growth when the PML-N was in power and the trade deficit stood at Rs35bn, while it was Rs 30bn now. "This is primarily because no development is taking place now,” the former prime minister added.

Contradicting the government’s claim of achieving bumper crops, he said: “We are still a net importer of food so how did bumper crops witness growth? Our cotton production nosedived to seven million bales from 12m. Is this what you call bumper crop?”

He alleged that the budget figures did not actually matter to the government because there would be another finance minister by the time the next budget was presented.

He said 20m people had fallen below the poverty line in the three years of the government, adding that the current rulers seemed to have "no strategy" to bring down inflated power, gas, and water bills.

He said the “construction mafia” was getting prime benefits in the budget. “The government has allowed people to invest in a sector which has amnesty and those with black money are buying homes, while the poor are unable to afford their own homes,” the PML-N leader alleged.

'Election stolen'

On the subject of electoral reforms, Abbasi alleged that the last elections were “stolen” through the Results Transmission System (RTS), saying “the electronic voting machines that the government intends to bring will do the same job.”

Answering a question, Abbasi criticised the government for having passed the CPEC Authority bill and "imposing the condition that you cannot question its chief". “On the contrary you can question the former prime minister, [and] convict another ex-premier,” he added.

Speaking alongside him, former finance minister Miftah Ismail said the government's decision to use money acquired through privatisation would be a grossly wrong move. “It’s like a local trader who earns Rs0.1 million daily and sells his personal car; he obviously won’t count his car sale in his income … the government is doing the opposite to include the selling of assets in its income," he added.

Ismail said the government could have reduced income tax on the salaried class in the budget, but it was not done.

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